Chinese President Xi Jinping insisted his country is worried about cyber security and said it, too, has been a victim of hacking as he met with President Obama during a summit that the U.S. hopes will convince Xi that China's allegedly rampant hacking of American companies is harming the U.S. economy.
Obama and Xi took a question apiece from reporters after wrapping up nearly four hours of talk at the secluded Sunnylands resort in California as part of a bid between the two competitive superpowers to forge a new relationship.
Obama called the talks "very constructive" and said they touched on a range of strategic issues, from North Korea to cyberspace to international institutions. Business groups have pressed Obama to get tougher on Chinese cyberhacking and Obama said the pair hadn't yet delved into cyber details, saying the talks were still at the "40,000 foot level."
But he said both presidents are aware that "because of these incredible advances in technology," the need for rules would be "increasingly important" for a relationship between the countries.
"In some ways, these are uncharted waters and you don't have the kinds of protocols that have governed military issues and arms issues, where nations have a lot of experience in trying to negotiate what'’s acceptable and what's not," Obama said. He called it "critical" that as two of the largest economies and military powers in the world, that China and the U.S. arrive at a firm understanding of how they can together.
Obama dismissed a suggestion that the revelations of NSA spying undercut the U.S. position, saying it's different from theft and hacking. He noted, too, that as China continues to develop and as more of its economy is based on research, it will have similar hacking concerns "which is why I believe we can work together on this rather than at cross-purposes."
Xi insisted the Chinese government "is firm in upholding cybersecurity" and has major concerns about it. But he dismissed suggestions that the threat comes mainly from China, or that cybersecurity is the biggest problem in the China-U.S. relationship -- and said China itself has been a victim of cyber attacks.
"We need to pay close attention to this issue and study ways to effectively resolve this issue," he said. "Because China and the United States both have a need and both share a concern, and China is a victim of cyber attacks and we hope that earnest measures can be taken to resolve this matter."